The Government is sabotaging Sure Start. 401 Sure Start Centres have closed since 2010 and hundreds more have been hollowed out. Sure Start funding has been cut by £286m and hundreds of millions more have been pillaged for ministerial pet projects.
This is truly the worst cut of all. Sure Start was an unqualified Labour success story. A national network of Children Centres provided one-stop-shops for young families looking for a helping hand. Far more than just childcare, Sure Start offered families advice and support in healthy living, parenting, employability, education and training.
At least as importantly, Sure Start Centres also offered a friendly and non-judgemental environment for parents to share their experiences, to lighten their load and to make friends.
Sure Start was a genuine triumph: a huge step towards addressing our historic national failure to invest in Early Intervention and the Early Years.
This is all in jeopardy. The Government is slashing budgets, introducing payment by results and redirecting support to the small minority of deeply troubled families. Their much heralded new childcare policy equates to warehousing more and more babies and toddlers in already overstretched nurseries. More Sure Start Centres will be forced to close.
We are fighting back by launching Labour Friends of Sure Start.
Labour Friends of Sure Start will be a campaigning force. We will celebrate the fantastic work being done in Sure Start Centres across the country. We will give a voice to the millions of families who rely on Sure Start services. And we will ally this with the resounding research evidence that investing in the Early Years is the single best way to unlock potential and to break down privilege.
Ultimately we want to make it as politically difficult to close a Sure Start Centre, as to close a Hospital A&E Department.
Led by Sharon Hodgson MP, and supported by UNISON, we are launching Labour Friends of Sure Start at the House of Commons tonight (Tuesday 12th February). All are very welcome; please email for more details.
We are seeking support from across the Labour Movement as we build a coalition to protect these fantastic family facilities. If you are a Sure Start user, worker or Governor – or just a passionate supporter, we would love to hear from you.
It is no exaggeration to say that Sure Start stands on the edge of a cliff. All our public services are under remorseless pressure, but there is a serious danger that Sure Start will cease to exist.
Sure Start is Labour at its very best. It is a universal service, based in local communities; the support provided by its committed staff changes lives. We cannot allow the Government to destroy this priceless work. It’s time to fight for Sure Start.
Michael Pavey is co-founder of Labour Friends of Sure Start and Chairs two Sure Start Centres in Wembley.